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Sceptical Cli-Fi (1) Huckleberry Finn

Long before I discovered Cli Fi and wrote about it somewhere here (hope the WordPress bot picks it up) I’ve had the feeling that literature can help us understand the incredible fiction which is catastrophic man-made global warming.

Ten years of frequenting warmists has convinced me of the truth of Ben Pile’s observation about the academic world which promotes this fantasy – that its essential quality is mediocrity. Something you normally only learn at an advanced age, but which young Ben has cottoned on to quickly, is that many people with quite high IQs are quite boringly stupid.

The idea that sciency type people are lacking something gets expressed quite frequently, and in the sixties was the subject of a famous dispute between scientist/novelist C.P. Snow and literary critic F.R. Leavis , ably analysed in this 2013 article in the Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/aug/16/leavis-snow-two-cultures-bust

One of the meagre sixteen commenters to this excellent Guardian article boasts that in the nineties he managed to do a degree in English Literature without reading a word of either CP Snow or FR Leavis, which tells us something about university literature departments, or about Guardian readers, or both. Ben is right. (with apologies to a half dozen intelligent commenters on the Guardian article.)

The problem is not that scientists don’t read books, but that university lecturers (many, or most of them) and newspaper editors and journalists and media types and educated people in general don’t read books. Or play an instrument, or sing in choirs, or speak foreign languages, or do the hundred and one things that any civilised person might have done in the past five centuries, in Europe or Asia, or the rest of the world in the past two centuries. (This doesn’t apply to our writers and readers of course, as you can verify in a thousand ways in their articles and comments.)

So I decided about ten years ago to show up the prevailing idiocy by doing a series of articles on climate scepticism in literature, starting maybe with Ecclesiastes:

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity… One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again… The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

..and following up with an article I wrote for a quite different purpose about Bad Weather in the Iliad. But let’s let the chronology go hang and start with Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.

Huck is the archetypal juvenile beatnik, a hundred years in advance of his time. Uneducated, but in admiration of his friend Tom Sawyer’s superior education, he spends the first half of the book accompanying the escaped slave Jim on a raft down the Mississippi. In chapter 34 Jim is recaptured and imprisoned prior to being resold into slavery. Huck joins up with his friend Tom Sawyer and they discuss plans to free Jim.

Huck’s plan is to steal the keys to the cabin where Jim is held prisoner and sail away on the raft:

Wouldn’t that plan work?” asks Huck.

Tom Sawyer replies:

“WORK? Why, cert’nly it would work, but it’s too blame’ simple; there ain’t nothing TO it. What’s the good of a plan that ain’t no more trouble than that?

I never said nothing, because I warn’t expecting nothing different; but I knowed mighty well that whenever he got HIS plan ready it wouldn’t have none of them objections to it. And it didn’t. He told me what it was, and I see in a minute it was worth fifteen of mine for style, and would make Jim just as free a man as mine would, and maybe get us all killed besides.

Huck continues:

When we got to the cabin we took a look at the front and the two sides; and on the side I warn’t acquainted with—which was the north side—we found a square window-hole, up tolerable high, with just one stout board nailed across it. I says:

“Here’s the ticket. This hole’s big enough for Jim to get through if we wrench off the board.”

Tom says: “It’s as simple as tit-tat-toe, three-in-a-row, and as easy as playing hooky. I should HOPE we can find a way that’s a little more complicated than THAT, Huck Finn.”

“Well, then,” I says, “how ‘ll it do to saw him out, the way I done before I was murdered that time?”

“That’s more LIKE,” he says. “It’s real mysterious, and troublesome, and good,” he says; “but I bet we can find a way that’s twice as long. There ain’t no hurry; le’s keep on looking around.”

Betwixt the hut and the fence, on the back side, was a lean-to that joined the hut at the eaves, and was made out of plank… Tom was joyful.

He says: “Now we’re all right. We’ll DIG him out. It ‘ll take about a week!”

IT would be most an hour yet till breakfast, so we left and struck down into the woods.. Tom says, kind of dissatisfied:

“Blame it, this whole thing is just as easy and awkward as it can be. And so it makes it so rotten difficult to get up a difficult plan. There ain’t no watchman to be drugged—now there OUGHT to be a watchman. There ain’t even a dog to give a sleeping-mixture to. And there’s Jim chained by one leg, with a ten-foot chain, to the leg of his bed: why, all you got to do is to lift up the bedstead and slip off the chain. And Uncle Silas he trusts everybody; sends the key to the punkin-headed nigger, and don’t send nobody to watch the nigger. Jim could a got out of that window-hole before this, only there wouldn’t be no use trying to travel with a ten-foot chain on his leg. Why, drat it, Huck, it’s the stupidest arrangement I ever see. You got to invent ALL the difficulties. Well, we can’t help it; we got to do the best we can with the materials we’ve got. Anyhow, there’s one thing—there’s more honor in getting him out through a lot of difficulties and dangers, where there warn’t one of them furnished to you by the people who it was their duty to furnish them, and you had to contrive them all out of your own head… Now, whilst I think of it, we got to hunt up something to make a saw out of the first chance we get.”

“What do we want of a saw?”

“What do we WANT of it? Hain’t we got to saw the leg of Jim’s bed off, so as to get the chain loose?”

“Why, you just said a body could lift up the bedstead and slip the chain off.”

“Well, if that ain’t just like you, Huck Finn. You CAN get up the infant-schooliest ways of going at a thing. Why, hain’t you ever read any books at all?—Baron Trenck, nor Casanova, nor Benvenuto Chelleeny, nor Henri IV., nor none of them heroes? Who ever heard of getting a prisoner loose in such an old-maidy way as that? No; the way all the best authorities does is to saw the bed-leg in two, and leave it just so, and swallow the sawdust, so it can’t be found, and put some dirt and grease around the sawed place so the very keenest seneskal can’t see no sign of it’s being sawed, and thinks the bed-leg is perfectly sound. Then, the night you’re ready, fetch the leg a kick, down she goes; slip off your chain, and there you are. Nothing to do but hitch your rope ladder to the battlements, shin down it, break your leg in the moat—because a rope ladder is nineteen foot too short, you know—and there’s your horses and your trusty vassles, and they scoop you up and fling you across a saddle, and away you go to your native Langudoc, or Navarre, or wherever it is. It’s gaudy, Huck. I wish there was a moat to this cabin. If we get time, the night of the escape, we’ll dig one.”

I says: “What do we want of a moat when we’re going to snake him out from under the cabin?”

But he never heard me. He had forgot me and everything else. He had his chin in his hand, thinking. Pretty soon he sighs and shakes his head; then sighs again, and says:

“No, it wouldn’t do—there ain’t necessity enough for it.”

“For what?” I says.

“Why, to saw Jim’s leg off,” he says.

“Everything’s all right now except tools; and that’s easy fixed.”

“Tools?” I says.

“Yes.”

“Tools for what?”

“Why, to dig with. We ain’t a-going to GNAW him out, are we?”

“Ain’t them old crippled picks and things in there good enough to dig a nigger out with?”  I says.

He turns on me, looking pitying enough to make a body cry, and says:

“Huck Finn, did you EVER hear of a prisoner having picks and shovels, and all the modern conveniences in his wardrobe to dig himself out with? Now I want to ask you—if you got any reasonableness in you at all—what kind of a show would THAT give him to be a hero? Why, they might as well lend him the key and done with it. Picks and shovels—why, they wouldn’t furnish ’em to a king.”

“Well, then,” I says, “if we don’t want the picks and shovels, what do we want?”

“A couple of case-knives.”

“To dig the foundations out from under that cabin with?”

“Yes.”

“Confound it, it’s foolish, Tom.”

“It don’t make no difference how foolish it is, it’s the RIGHT way—and it’s the regular way. And there ain’t no OTHER way, that ever I heard of, and I’ve read all the books that gives any information about these things. They always dig out with a case-knife—and not through dirt, mind you; generly it’s through solid rock. And it takes them weeks and weeks and weeks, and for ever and ever. Why, look at one of them prisoners in the bottom dungeon of the Castle Deef, in the harbor of Marseilles, that dug himself out that way; how long was HE at it, you reckon?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, guess.”

“I don’t know. A month and a half.”

“THIRTY-SEVEN YEAR—and he come out in China…

“JIM don’t know nobody in China.”

“What’s THAT got to do with it? Neither did that other fellow. But you’re always a-wandering off on a side issue. Why can’t you stick to the main point?”

Why can’t I stick to the main point? What’s this to do with global warming?

Look at any article at Climate Brief or Guardian Environment and ask yourself: “What are they trying to achieve?” Why, freedom from the negative effects of climate change, of course. How? By the most complicated method possible, because, like Tom Sawyer, these are highly educated people. They’re not going to free poor people from poverty by making them richer – that would be too simple. So let’s install a hundred year plan to make the richer countries poorer, in the vain hope that badly managed temperature records will come up with a figure less than one and a half degrees in a hundred years or so. And if we have to saw the legs off 400 million Africans to save them, so be it.

“JIM don’t know nobody in China.”

No, but hundreds of millions of Jim’s cousins back in Africa do know somebody in China. And that somebody is offering to free them the Huck way, by developing them out of poverty, while we Westerners, with our Tom Sawyer-like superior education, are offering them:

the RIGHT way—and it’s the regular way. And there ain’t no OTHER way, that ever I heard of, and I’ve read all the books that gives any information about these things… and.. generly it’s through solid rock. And it takes them weeks and weeks and weeks, and for ever and ever.

15 thoughts on “Sceptical Cli-Fi (1) Huckleberry Finn

  1. Cultural phenomena such as that focussed around the CAGW narrative, have likely existed for as long as Homo Sapiens Sapiens at least, probably long before as evidenced by remaining signs of religious behaviour (religion is just one class of such cultural phenomena, which all share the same mechanisms). So while modern academia may be peculiarly susceptible to hi-jacking by arbitrary culture, the potential for conforming to cultural consensus is buried deep in all of us, and is essentially endemic in humans. The behaviour is also domain dependent, i.e. someone might be wholly free of CAGW cultural influence, say, yet fervently religious. Or wholly free of religious cultural influence, yet fervently nationalistic or fervently communist, say. More often though cultures form alliance strings, so belief in one can cause sympathy for another, e.g. racism and a particular political brand within a country (e.g. strong dislike of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1990 was likely to predict support for the Hutu majority governing party). So before any of us declare we are above such things, let them examine every possible cultural domain where such influence might play in their lives. I know I am not free of influence.

    The dependence of modern academia on government support, and their cellular structure (disciplines / groups tend to operate with much less awareness of other work / areas than is healthy – and are also not questioning enough about the output of other groups), are probably the kinds of structural things that make the academy susceptible, rather than their reading habits, which likely range right through from avid readers to minimalistic readers (although reading itself tends to align to cultural values, so acts as reinforcement). But it is also the case that while academia are particularly aligned with CAGW, and indeed as various reports show, are increasingly left aligned too, they have not been aligned with other cultures and have even led the charge against religion (or in some cases may be split, as with Eugenics). Support or resistance of groups are due to the alliance strings noted above, into which functional areas of society can get pulled regarding strong cultural conflicts, hence statistically speaking the individuals within them too, e.g. via their job connections or peer influences.

    So I make this comment only to express that the while there is surface truth in pointing to the alignment of academia with CAGW, and indeed mediocrity plus a somewhat hollow bloatedness of some academia in recent times (itself a feature of huge past success and so consequent unquestioned operations) might well be proximate causes, there are also much deeper drivers. And there is some danger in isolating any single function in society and laying too much blame at their feet. Not only could that get out of hand if folks take you too far out of context, it diverts from what we really have to understand if we are ever to address and curtail these cultural behaviours. Such behaviours as exampled by climate catastrophist culture would have been recognised in society before academia was ever born and before there were books, or even writing. Which is not to say that these inventions create far more diverse ways in which cultures and cultural resistance plays out.

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  2. Geoff
    “The problem is not that scientists don’t read books, but that university lecturers (many, or most of them) and newspaper editors and journalists and media types and educated people in general don’t read books. Or play an instrument, or sing in choirs, or speak foreign languages, or do the hundred and one things that any civilised person might have done in the past five centuries, in Europe or Asia, or the rest of the world in the past two centuries”.
    Firstly I noted the quick elide from university literature departments to scientists. Not exactly well hidden
    Second, I don’t think there has been any real diminution in the abilities of those taking up science, merely a lack of opportunities. Many play music ( or at least listen to it). My love became ballet which I attend whenever possible. No longer possible to frequent is Italian opera. Norwich is not a centre. Science today is invariably one of increasing specialization and with so many involved it requires more and more focus to achieve anything significant. Not only does this mean that most cannot span the two cultures divide but the days of science generalist are long gone. Today we may know a lot about a tiny bit of knowledge.
    Thirdly please turn around and note the profound ignorance of many who concentrated upon the humanities.
    One of the delights of working in a School of Environmental Science was the abundant opportunities to mingle with and learn from specialists in a multitude of disciplines. My literary soul was not allowed to perish too much by my marriage to an arts graduate who made me read things and go to performances.

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  3. For Cli Fi related novels, I’d like to recommend Rose, by Martin Cruz Smith. It has a lot of interesting stuff about England’s early coal industry and the science behind it. The engineer protagonist even uses a telescope to use the position of Jupiter’s moons to get the correct time to chart his precise position.

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  4. Yesterday I posted on BH queries, pertinent to the discussion here,
    that I would greatly like the answer to, and to which no supporter of AGW has offered a realistic answer. Has anyone here learned this inner mystery?
    The questions : if climate statisticians who report the same summer temperatures this year also occurred back in 1976, doesn’t that mean a) conditions today are not unprecidented and didn’t require today’s levels of CO2?, and b) there have been more than 40 intervening years when climate change was allegedly getting worse, when temperatures never reached such high levels. How come?
    What then is the logic of using this year’s warm summer to argue that it demonstrates climate change ? Even those wise enough to be more cautious, using the words “consistent with”, you find in another context using the hot summer as proof of AGW or, on the basis of this year’s weather predicting many more hot summers to come? Has logic disappeared?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Andy,
    I am enjoying your novella quite a bit.
    Your points on how apocalyptic claptrap takes roots are greatly appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks Hunter, glad you’re enjoying it 🙂 There were very many downloads from Smashwords and my own site when I first released it. However in recent years just a trickle, as I have never put any effort into promoting it (apart from the very occasional link-drop on sites such as this).

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  7. There is I believe a profound question lurking here. Does the increasing specialization of those who practice science, which may lead to only a passing acquaintance with the humanities, cause a diminishment in the human condition? If it does, then our education system is on the wrong path and has been for more than 70 years. When I attended grammar school in the 1950s and at age 16 we were forced to choose between the arts and sciences in the 6th form; at my school you could not mix them. My solution was later to marry an opinionated arts graduate and we grew together to love and appreciate such things as opera and ballet. My preferred reading, however, never really “improved” in the view of “she who must be listened to”, although I did try. Her appreciation of science remains medieval, although this remains unspoken.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Alan Kendall

    “The questions : if climate statisticians who report the same summer temperatures this year also occurred back in 1976, doesn’t that mean a) conditions today are not unprecidented and didn’t require today’s levels of CO2?, and b) there have been more than 40 intervening years when climate change was allegedly getting worse, when temperatures never reached such high levels. How come?”

    In a nutshell….

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ANDYWEST (03 Sep 18 at 11:16 am)

    the potential for conforming to cultural consensus is buried deep in all of us, and is essentially endemic in humans.

    The dependence of modern academia on government support, and their cellular structure … are probably the kinds of structural things that make the academy susceptible, rather than their reading habits

    while there is surface truth in pointing to the alignment of academia with CAGW … there are also much deeper drivers. And there is some danger in isolating any single function in society and laying too much blame at their feet.

    I quote above what I take to be the core of your interesting comment, with which I am in complete agreement. Maybe I shouldn’t have emphasised the academic, as I did in the introduction, and should have just let the text speak for itself. But the dialogue between Tom and Huck recalled the Leavis/ Snow dispute, with Tom as C.P.Snow, with his vision of culture as a sum of stuff you know (including, necessarily, the laws or thermodynamics)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtEqn-5XHpU and Huck as a more intuitive follower of the Common Pursuit.

    It’s all about what you hope to achieve. Making the earth as good a place to live as possible seems a reasonable aim, as does freeing Jim as quickly and easily as possible. But that’s not how Tom Sawyer sees it. Why does his ragbag of pseudo-knowledge get in the way of freeing Jim? Precisely because it’s so important, so clearly the right thing to do.

    I once did a half hour’s research on Bangladesh and sea rise. I found that, with the help of Dutch engineers, Bangladesh was actually increasing its surface area by building dikes. Isn’t that boring? How many hundreds of articles have you read about Bangladesh, and how many mentioned Dutch engineers and dikes? Isn’t it much more interesting to do what the British Psychoanalytical Society did and pay the airfare of a Bangladeshi widow to come to London and talk about how her land was rendered salty by rising sea levels and her husband was eaten by a tiger?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Geoff:

    Your Bangladesh example is a good one; it demonstrates why cultural consensuses typically trump veracity. This isn’t because of ‘interest’, but because of ’emotion’. In this case, the widow scenario has oodles more emotive payoff.

    Where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, regarding group beliefs and their consequent cultural consensuses, i.e. where cultural narratives propagating group beliefs are actually digested within the brains of individuals, it is not yet known what the mechanics are, albeit direct brain scans are beginning to assist psychological studies. Yet it has long seemed clear that ’emotive engagement’ is the summary of what’s going on (indeed the great power of emotive bias and of argumentum ad passiones has been known about for at least millennia).

    I don’t know whether the Tom Sawyer passage is particularly insightful or not in this regard. Tom’s cultural conformance is highly contrived, albeit to make the example stand out I guess, yet pointing out such examples of the foolishness of the apparently knowledgeable, even implying these are systemic among many folks, doesn’t necessarily address why such things happen or the best means to address the issue. A big point about group beliefs is that those who have them wouldn’t recognise themselves in this passage anyhow, though they may recognise the believers of other cultural narratives which they don’t share. Another point is that it isn’t just ‘the knowledgeable’ that behave this way, albeit (per Kahan) they will be more polarised in any particular cultural conflict, their knowledge better serves their belief if you will. As far as I recall from too many decades ago, even Huck believes in (an entirely mythical) God, albeit he is much more cautious about the associated rituals. And maybe also Mark Twain was rather constrained by making an interesting scene above the accuracy / depth of his social metaphor (I speak as a fiction writer – there are many constraints!)

    ‘Making the earth as good a place to live as possible’ seems indeed like a reasonable aim. But it is also one that is too easily and endlessly hi-jacked by emotive narratives which produce arbitrary consensuses such as say Communism or indeed catastrophic climate culture (via the element of salvation that will then avoid the catastrophe), all of which are based upon the passions of believers, and many of which have millions or even hundreds of millions of believers from the grass-roots folks right up through all the ranks to the elite. It is just too easy to be passionate about such an apparently reasonable motive, which gives the ancient mechanisms in us their chance to trigger. The ‘purpose’ (i.e. the job which they evolved to do) of strong cultural consensuses, is entirely at odds with the propagation the truth or evidence-based reality. However, it is pretty doubtful that we’ve reached the stage where we can live without cultural narratives. I suspect our interactive reasoning is still way too fragile to produce much common action by working always from first principles and objectively / dynamically weighing about 7 billion views. Cultural narratives are still our main means of getting civilizational things done, even if the downside is that they are always wrong (despite this the good things kicked off in their name exceed the bad, at least up to the modern era, maybe still, won’t know until future history tells us).

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  11. Re emotional narratives, Solicitor Robin Eubanks, Invisible serfs collar blog, has
    written a series of posts, beginning in 2012, on Common Core K-12 curriculum,
    centred on values education. Common core is directed to transformational
    learning dominated by practices intentionally engaging feelings and emotions
    and policies to shift student attitudes to a new planned economy around sustainability
    and altering traditional respect in western thought for the legitimacy of the individual.
    Here is one of Robin Eubank’s posts.

    http://invisibleserfscollar.com/didnt-the-president-just-admit-ccssi-was-a-ruse-to-change-classroom-interactions/

    The student make-over she identifies is similar to my research on George Soros,
    his 2000 Manifesto equating individualism and ‘selfishness,’ and funding his EU
    University to transform students into social justice warriors.

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  12. ANDY WEST

    …regarding group beliefs and their consequent cultural consensuses, i.e. where cultural narratives propagating group beliefs are actually digested within the brains of individuals, it is not yet known what the mechanics are, albeit direct brain scans are beginning to assist psychological studies…

    A big point about group beliefs is that those who have them wouldn’t recognise themselves in this passage anyhow, though they may recognise the believers of other cultural narratives which they don’t share.

    A good point, and one which can be illustrated by your reference to brain scans in your first sentence which I quote above.

    From Emmanuel Todd’s studies of the unconscious influence of family structure on macro-social and cultural trends, we learn that we Anglo-Saxons are culturally determined (but not hardwired) to seek individualist explanations and solutions. Huck Finn is the archetypal Anglo Saxon individualist, with “Just Do It” tattooed on his unconscious. Tom Sawyer, like so many of us, is vaguely aware that the immense majority of the planet’s population have rather more complex social relations than those implied by the nuclear family. When we find them in societies more primitive than ours, we eradicate them; when they exist in advanced societies like Old Europe and China, we admire and distrust them.

    Huck’s individualism is wonderfully adapted to the open frontier society he lived in. (Two other American classics demonstrate even better the power of of the myth of the free individual. Thoreau’s “Walden” and Melville’s “Moby Dick” both start in exactly the same way – with the narrator hero earning some pocket money doing supply teaching before going off to do something quite different: build a log cabin or hunt whales.)

    We Anglo Saxons have successfully imposed our unconscious individualist impulses in many areas of society, notably in academia, with such peculiar institutions as the scientific paper and the tenured professor. But as Tom Sawyers, vaguely aware that our world view is at odds with that of the vast majority of the world’s population, we may tend to feel unconsciously that we are a threatened minority – a concept which has a profound echo for obvious historical reasons. But what can possibly threaten us, given our cultural and often political domination of the rest of the world? Some resort to historical fantasy threats, like Russia or Islam, while other, more sophisticated minds, imagine a threat to the very air we breathe, coming very largely from the emissions of the deplorables.

    I’m not against the search for individualist explanations. (For centuries science was little more than a hobby for private Anglo Saxon gentlemen.) But I’d tend to look for Freudian explanations rather than brain scans. The excessive reaction to scepticism expressed by so many climate believers suggest that they are reacting (unconsciously) to what they feel to be a dangerous threat to something within themselves. But to what, exactly?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Geoff:

    I’ve completely lost you on why you think brain scans are any kind of support for individualist explanations. Typically they demonstrate just the opposite, i.e. they are (tentatively / nascently) showing how deep and universal are the mechanisms which support culture in the first place (whatever that culture might be), and for instance that (albeit it’s a long way from a proven result), strong cultural belief (religious belief is usually the most convenient to explore), appears to work via the same parts of the brain which hypnotists leverage to get influence over people. Leading to the speculation that these parts of the brain may have evolved specifically for the purpose of supporting cultural belief. Part of such belief involves one (or more than one) part of the brain that fully accepts the cultural narrative, internally telling another part (or more than one), which would otherwise have perceived that there is much about strong cultural narratives that simply cannot be true, to skip its normal checks. This arrangement has been described by some as a kind of thought ‘choir’, which sometimes follows the cultural lead, but for sure not always in many people too, because for every culture in the world and historically (as far as can be determined) there is always simultaneously a sceptical reaction acting in opposition. [Often it has to stay at least partially cloaked – but evidence in history is clear outside of official, so official culture, records. Graffiti is a rich source]. Anglo Saxons (and some other ethnicities too) may have a touch more of this reaction than is common in say the Far East or wherever, but these are minor nuances on the big picture. The sceptical reactions are instinctive, and likely a balance against cultural overshoot (i.e. when more bad than good occurs in the name of a culture, e.g. a corrupt church / outrageous pope etc.) as well as against the invasion of alien cultures. So this ‘innate’ scepticism is a very different beast to reasoned scepticism, though the two are often confused, and often too entangled; for instance innate scepticism is itself cultural value dependent. See: https://judithcurry.com/2017/02/20/innate-skepticism/

    The strong reaction of those fully immersed in a culture to scepticism (whether the latter happens to arise from reasoned scepticism or innate scepticism, or both), is indeed one which implies that a dangerous threat is perceived. And this reaction is no less for your example of calamitous climate culture; you are dead right. The threat is of course, to identity. As Dan Kahan succinctly puts it regarding the results of his surveys on culturally conflicted topics in the US – people don’t answer from a perspective of ‘what they think’ , but instead from a perspective of ‘who they are’. Similar questions can be asked in ways which both do and don’t trigger cultural identity defence, and the answers are systemically different. An identity crisis is probably the second greatest threat (the first being an outright impending threat of death), and is so deeply buried within us because it’s linked to very long-evolved mechanisms such as altruism – if you aren’t part of the group identity you won’t get the group goodies, for most of our history this likely means you will die. Group dynamics is how the whole system arose in the first place.

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  14. P.S. for the avoidance of doubt, I don’t think there is any value in ‘individualist’ explanations for group phenomena such as cultural belief and innate scepticism, which appear to be universal among humans. That said, we need to analyse (many) actual individuals, both to gauge the spectra we’re dealing with, because just as with biology, cultural evolution appears to support widely polymorphic structures, and practically speaking because individuals are the only direct route we have into viewing brain operation as it actually occurs.

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